The existing literature suggests that external shocks, such as pandemics, stimulate people’s demand for social protections and prompt them to favor short-term social consumption over long-term investments. However, this argument may not apply fully in a society with an urban–rural divide in addition to an unequal welfare system. Through a telephone survey conducted in July 2020, this study sought to investigate public opinions on the social policy response to the coronavirus disease pandemic in China. Quantitative evidence showed large economic hardship among the respondents, who expressed a strong expectation for labor market interventions instead of social assistance. This study reveals that the preexisting inequalities in people’s access to welfare benefits have led local residents and migrants to develop differential preferences for social policies. This attitudinal heterogeneity is illustrative of the inequalities in the Chinese welfare system as well as of the labor market dynamics that have resulted from massive internal migration and the informalization of the workforce. The division between locals and migrants in China’s urban welfare system has shaped a demarcation of welfare preferences between the two groups through peculiar interpretive feedback effects. Copyright © 2022 The Author(s).
CitationHe, A. J., Zhang, C., & Qian, J. (2022). COVID-19 and social inequality in China: The local–migrant divide and the limits of social protections in a pandemic. Policy and Society. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1093/polsoc/puac003
- Social protection